How Hard is it to Remove Backsplash?

Removing a backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and technique, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove backsplash and the factors that determine the level of difficulty.

Assessing the Type of Backsplash

The first step is to identify what type of backsplash you currently have installed. Common backsplash materials include:

Tile Backsplashes

Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are very popular choices for backsplashes. They come in endless style and color options.

Removing tile backsplashes can be moderately difficult since the tiles are firmly adhered to the wall with mortar or mastic. Trying to pry off intact tiles often results in broken tiles or damage to the wall behind.

The mortar also needs to be chiseled away after tile removal. This process creates a lot of dust and debris.

Plastic and Metal Backsplashes

Backsplashes made of vinyl, plastic, or metal sheets are simple DIY installations that just stick onto the wall with adhesive.

These are the easiest to remove since you can slice through the caulk beads with a utility knife and pull them off without much force. Minimal patching of the wall is required afterward.

Glass Backsplashes

Glass backsplash tiles have gained popularity for their gleaming finish. However, the glass material is fragile and needs careful removal to avoid cracks and shards.

The tiles are set similarly to ceramic tiles, so scraping away the mortar is needed. Use eye and hand protection when removing glass backsplashes.

Beadboard and Wood Backsplashes

Beadboard panels consist of wooden boards with decorative grooves. They are attached to the wall with panel adhesive or nails.

Removing beadboard requires prying the panels off the walls and filling nail holes and adhesive patches. Take care not to damage the drywall too much.

Factors That Determine Difficulty

Beyond the backsplash type, several other factors come into play when determining the difficulty level of removal:

Backsplash Size

A backsplash running along the entire length of the countertops and reaching up to the bottom of the upper cabinets will be larger and more time consuming to tear out than a contained backsplash behind a single sink.

Larger backsplash areas equate to more materials to dispose of and more potential mess and complications.

Installation Method

Backsplashes installed with excessive mortar or adhesive will be harder to remove cleanly. Messy applications lead to bigger repair jobs for the wall afterwards.

Proper installation with just enough mortar makes removal easier. Backsplashes using mastic tape around the edges simplify removal.


Tight spaces behind appliances and near corners restrict arm motion and make swinging tools more challenging. Consider if any appliances need to be pulled out or removed to access the entire backsplash.

Open concept areas with wide counter space offer much easier access.

Wall Material

Tile removal will cause more damage to drywall than to plaster or concrete walls. Holes and crumbling are common drywall issues that add repairs to the process.

Prying tiles off sturdier wall materials requires more strength but less patching afterwards.

Step-by-Step Backsplash Removal Process

Once you’ve assessed the backsplash type and work environment, follow these steps for safe and successful removal:

1. Prepare the Workspace

Clear the counters and move appliances if needed. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to catch debris. Have a garbage bag ready to discard removed materials.

Put on safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask. Play it safe since flying shards or dust can cause injuries.

2. Score the Grout Lines

Use a utility knife or oscillating tool to cut any caulk beads and score along the grout lines. This separates the tiles and breaks the mortar’s adhesion.

Scoring makes prying off tiles quicker versus trying to chisel under each one.

3. Remove Whole Tiles First

Start prying off any intact tiles by inserting a putty knife into a grout line and twisting. Tiles should pop off the wall readily after scoring.

Removing all the easy tiles first gives you a head start before chiseling.

4. Chisel Away Mortar

Switch to a chisel and hammer next to scrape away the leftover mortar on at least 50% of the wall. Mortar stuck to tiles can stay.

This step roughs up the surface for the next stage of tile removal.

5. Break Away Remaining Tiles

With much of the mortar gone, strike the remaining tiles with the hammer to break them up safely. Aim for the center of tiles to fracture them.

Wear eye protection and work methodically to avoid large flying shards.

6. Grind Down Stubborn Mortar

Use an angle grinder with a concrete/masonry disk to tidy the wall if significant mortar chunks remain. Grind just to the drywall level.

A chisel can also work for small patches. Grinding creates lots of dust.

7. Clean Up and Make Repairs

Once all backsplash components are removed, sweep and mop the entire area. Seal any crumbling drywall edges with joint compound.

Fill nail holes, gouges, or cracks and sand everything smooth when dry. Prime and paint.

Tips for Easier Removal

  • Soak very adhesive tiles in water for easier scraping.
  • Apply heat with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften old caulk and mastic.
  • Use a pry bar for extra leverage removing stubborn tiles.
  • Work top to bottom and systematically for the most efficient debris cleanup.


Removing backsplash is a messy and laborious process, but very worthwhile to gain a clean slate for new kitchen updates. With the right tools and proper safety technique, the demolition can be manageable as a DIY project. Focus on careful tile removal and wall repair for smooth results. And be sure to thoroughly protect your eyes, lungs, and hands throughout the job.

Here are 5 commonly asked questions about removing backsplash:

How do you remove tile backsplash?

To remove a tile backsplash, first score along the grout lines with a utility knife. Then pry off any loose tiles with a putty knife, working from the bottom up. Next, chisel away at least 50% of the mortar behind the tiles. Break the remaining tiles by hammering the center and wear eye protection. Finally, grind down any leftover mortar with an angle grinder.

What is the easiest backsplash to remove?

Plastic, vinyl, or metal sheet backsplashes are the easiest to remove. Just slice through the adhesive caulk beads with a utility knife and pull them off the wall. Minimal patching is required since they do not penetrate into the wall like tile.

Can I remove backsplash myself?

With some demolition experience, proper tools, and safety precautions, an average DIYer can tackle a backsplash removal solo. Simple plastic panels are very doable alone. Tile backsplashes are more challenging but can be managed with perseverance, methodical working, and willingness to make some repairs.

What damage can removing backsplash cause?

The main risk during backsplash removal is damage to the drywall behind. Prying off tiles can gouge and crumble drywall edges. Excessive grinding can also scar drywall. Holes may need patching and cracks or lost edges will require joint compound repair and touch up painting.

Is it worth removing existing backsplash?

If a backsplash is outdated, damaged, or you want a fresh new look, removal is worth the effort. Thorough removal allows you to correct any moisture or mold issues behind the backsplash too. Take care to protect yourself and your walls during demolition for the best results.

Key Takeaways from “How Hard is it to Remove Backsplash?”

  • Assess backsplash material first – tiles require more work than stick-on plastic panels
  • Containment of size and proper installation ease removal
  • Accessibility issues and wall type can complicate demolition
  • Score grout lines and pry off tiles systematically from bottom up
  • Scrape away old mastic/mortar before grinding remains smooth
  • Drywall repairs are common – seal edges and fill holes
  • Safety goggles, mask, gloves advised due to dust and flying debris